[To the Rev. C. J.] London, 21 January 1844.
My dear Friend,
I feel myself much indebted to you, and know of no way of acknowledging it to you so well as by entering a little into the affliction with which it has pleased God to visit you. Affliction is the voice of the Lord, which, it is said, "breaketh the cedars" [Psalm xxix. 5]. I have found it one of the greatest mercies of my life that this voice has been spoken to me, so as to break down many of the strongholds of Satan; but it is astonishing, when the Lord gives us the least reprieve, how soon we return to our old state. This is the cause of perpetual contention. God is determined that his purpose of mercy shall not be frustrated, therefore he repeats the blow until he effectually brings us down in the dust before him, and all our flourishing pretensions are laid prostrate at his feet. His design is not to make a full end of his people, only to correct them in measure, and not leave them altogether unpunished [Jer. xxx. 11].
The Lord says "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," but we are too ready to say that this must be a secondary consideration; therefore he always blows upon speculations which are not founded in a regard to his honour, nor carried on with a continual seeking to maintain communion with him. Nothing is so hurtful to the soul as independence of God, and nothing so common as atheistical notions of God's not noticing this or the other matter, though he has told us that not one hair of our heads shall fall without his notice. Those false notions grow into a habit, and if we belong to the Lord he will sooner or later quash that habit by a fearful threatening affliction, making us tremble from head to foot, while we contemplate his dealing with us "by terrible things in righteousness." When such things hang heavy and long upon us, they drink up our spirits, and turn our comeliness into corruption; but in this our abject condition, while we are ready to give up all for lost, the Lord steps forth in our behalf and tells us, "I will heal thee of thy wounds, because they called thee an outcast." Thus he fulfils his promise - "Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." [Jer. xxx. 17, 22.] Were it not so, the world would have us, and we should have a name that we live, but be dead. Therefore lest what should be for our welfare become a trap, he is continually humbling us by various disappointments; till at last we acknowledge that we would be great in this world, but the Lord will not have it so. He not only makes us little in our own estimation, but also in the eyes of the world; and then he shows his marvellous mercy, for he will have it that we are not little in his eyes, but of great price. When fairly brought down into the valley of humiliation we are surprised to find how many sweets grow there, and how often we obtain an entrance into his gracious presence; hope abounds, and the bounty of heaven is marvellously displayed in ways we never understood before, and the condescension of our God is clearly felt in all his various manifestations of tender care and love and mercy.
In this way he teaches us to live upon his fullness, and not upon something we think ourselves to possess. Our suppositions sink into low estimation in the hot furnace, but the pardoning love of God is raised in value; and now, when beclouded, we feel as if all were lost, and cannot rest till we have a fresh token and display of his love to us in Christ Jesus. Everything now keeps its place. Providential matters are bestowed or withheld at God's pleasure; and we learn to watch, and stand in awe. If he frown, we stoop very low and confess our sin; if he smile, we draw nigh and admire the riches of his sovereign grace. This is the life of God in the soul. This is walking in the Spirit.
What our minister said this morning upon the following text was exceedingly establishing to me - "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." I had a sweet testimony that the Lord had brought me down to this, and the overflowing comfort satisfied my soul of the Lord's everlasting love to me in Christ Jesus. You also must go the same way, and indeed this is the way the Lord is leading you. I hope and trust neither you nor Mrs. J. will quarrel against him because he will choose the way, and not leave that point with you. It is my most sincere desire that you may both continue with the Lord in his temptations, because the cross and the crown will most assuredly go together.
Yours &c. J. B.